While we all know that is true, it seems equally true to say that, a common characteristic of our fallen human race is a spirit of pretentiousness. Obviously there are always exceptions, but directly or indirectly, we seem to have elevated our self-worth and understanding (at least in our own eyes) to such an extent that, at the very least we’re prideful, but perhaps worse, we border on actually being frauds (ouch).
Society has raised us as such, so we might be inclined to argue that, if this is true, it’s not really our fault. Society encourages us to take pride in ourselves, in our accomplishments, in our family, in our favorite sports teams, and even in our nation. I will be the first person to admit that at times I too wrestle with pride. Maybe you’re asking yourself right now, so what’s wrong with that? Maybe you’re thinking that I’ve gone and lost my mind and am making a big deal about nothing. Maybe I am.
However, before we go any further, let me share something I was meditating on very early this morning. It is this:
“For we [Christians] are the true circumcision, who worship God in spirit and by the Spirit of God and exult and glory and pride ourselves in Jesus Christ, and put no confidence or dependence [on what we are] in the flesh and on outward privileges and physical advantages and external appearances.” (Philippians 3:3; Amplified)
Notice again the second part of that verse and ask yourself a question: Is Paul speaking about putting “no confidence” in those very flesh-things that we spoke of above? Is he saying, don’t be prideful in anything or anyone but Jesus Christ alone? That’s the way I read it. Notice what Watchman Nee had to say on this subject:
Circumcision was a sign that marked out the Jew from the rest of mankind. What is the corresponding mark of our Christian life before men? Is it charity? wisdom? sincerity? zeal? Other men have these. None of them is peculiar to the people of God; but there is one that is. It is a seemly absence of self-confidence! What distinguishes God’s own is that their confidence in the flesh is destroyed and they are cast back upon Him. I have known Christians who are so sure they know the will of God that they will not for one moment consider that they may be mistaken. I tell you they still lack the supreme sign of the spiritual “circumcision,” namely, no confidence in the flesh. The spiritual man walks humbly, always aware that he may be wrong. He assents gladly to the apocryphal beatitude: Happy are they who realize they may be mistaken!
What if you’re wrong?
Someone once said, “You can justify any opinion from the pages of the Bible.” I think there is some truth in that. Likewise, one could give the same Bible passage to half a dozen different Christian leaders and end up with half a dozen completely different interpretations in their ensuing sermons. Some will no doubt argue, “ah, but you need the Spirit of God to bring interpretation.” My question then becomes, what do we do with the fact that all six of those preachers believe themselves to be filled with the same Holy Spirit that you and I claim to be? Can they all be right? Can they all still be wrong? Or are they only partly right?
“For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been clearly known and understood [by God].” (1 Corinthians 13:12; Amplified)
I am reminded of an illustration I heard years ago. It seems that there were four men who were blind from birth and who had never enjoyed the ability to see that which we each take for granted. All four men were taken on an outing to a zoo. While there the zookeeper took them into the elephant enclosure and allowed them to touch the elephant so that they might try and gain a little perspective of the awesome creature. As they stood around the elephant, one felt the ear, another the trunk, the third one was placed beside one of the massive legs, and the fourth reached out and touched the tail. But when they began to share their perception of what the elephant was like, there was of course no consensus. The four blind men were not even close in agreeing what an elephant was like. What each of them felt was true, but it was only a small part of the bigger picture.
I think Christianity is somewhat like that. Like the blind men, each of us has seen something of the nature and wonder of God, but we have not seen the whole picture. For us to claim otherwise would border on pride and arrogance. We would probably all do well to remember that, this side of glory, the best any of us can hope for is to see is a dimmed and blurred reflection. Perhaps that is why the half-dozen pastors can arrive at a half-dozen different interpretations based upon the same biblical text.
Maybe this also helps us to understand Jesus’ words in the greatest commandment a little better, in which He said that everything hangs first on love (Matthew 22: 25-40). Given that all any on us can see now is a dim reflection, maybe it really is first and foremost all about love. Have I ever been wrong? Oh, I’m certain of it. However, God helping me, I am striving to put less confidence in the flesh and more in Christ alone.
Which part of the elephant are you hanging on to?
“Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
(Proverbs 16:18)Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons